The concept for Mother Lode began in the early 1970s when the rivers of California were in imminent danger of destruction by dams. The company has as at its heart the conservation of rivers. It has grown over the years to become one of the largest permitted outfitters on California’s most popular whitewater river, the South Fork of the American. In the year 2000 it added a Challenge Ropes Course, Outdoor Education Program and in 2008 added a Sustainable Practices Program. It operates from one of the original and most beautiful camps in the West Coast, the largest camp owned by an outfitter, the Mother Lode River Center, over 19 acres and a half of a mile of riverfront on the South Fork of the American River in Lotus, California.


  • Outfitting capacity in one day: 243 on the South Fork American River. Smaller numbers on the Middle and North Forks of the American.
  • Camping capacity: 300 persons. Accommodations range from camping out under the stars to full-sized beds and can accommodate everyone from single campers to large groups and families. Special events can also be coordinated through Mother Lode. The grounds also contain two full outdoor kitchens, one of which is available for rent to groups.
  • Number of participants: Since its inception nearly 40 years ago, Mother Lode has introduced more than 270,000 people to nature. Each year, approximately 6,000 people participate in the rafting and outdoor education adventures.

Contacts & Location

Mother Lode River Center

Phone: 530-626-4187

Website: http://www.malode.com/

E-mail: malode@malode.com

Address: 6280 Hwy 49, Lotus, Ca., 95651

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 456, Coloma, Ca. 95613-0456

Office Hours: Mon-Fri; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Memorial Day to Labor Day; Off-season hours vary.


  • Community Sustainability: Progress Redefined by Scott Underwood; Published in “The Current”, the American River Conservancy’s quarterly newsletter, June, July, August 2010. Read it in Scott’s Blog
  • Health in Nature: The Science by Scott Underwood; Published in “The Current”, the American River Conservancy’s quarterly newsletter, Dec. 20, 2009. Read it in the Mother Lode Blog or at Ezine Articles.com
  • Bumps in the Road to Carbon Neutral by Scott Scheu and Scott Underwood; Read it at Ezine Articles.com

Awards and Accolades

  • Recognized by Friends of the River as “An Outstanding Outfitter in the Service of River Conservation.”
  • Dr. Scott Underwood and the Mother Lode River Center were honored by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) by being selected as a presenter in the Green Operations and Technology Track, Conservation Section at their Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia. http://www.malode.com/about/ecotourism-society
  • Featured on “Experience El Dorado,” produced by Todd Stanley of Discovery Channel’s “The Deadliest Catch,” and shown on ABC Channel 10. Their “Green” segment featured businesses that make a point of reducing their ecological impact. Posted in the blog, with video segment on the Mother Lode home page.
  • Mother Lode River Center partnered with the American River Conservancy (ARC) in celebrating 20 years of conservation efforts by the ARC at the “Starthistle Ball.” One highlight of the event was a video presentation of ARC history created by Emmy Award winning videographer Janice Stanley. Read about it and see the video in the Mother Lode blog.

Photos and Videos

Contact Mother Lode for permission to use any images from this website. They are protected by copyright law.


Operations Manager: Scotty Scheu

Office Manager: Penny Gonzales

  • E-mail: penny@malode.com
  • Years with Mother Lode: 7
  • Education: Currently working on BS in Business Administration
  • Leadership Background & Experience: 25 years of office management
  • Seven children under her care! Helped Habitat for Humanity team in El Dorado county get their first grant.
  • Without Penny, none of the magic of the Mother Lode whitewater rafting experience and outdoor education could happen. Her helpfulness and sweetness on the phone lead many customers to come looking for her when they arrive at Mother Lode for their whitewater raft trips, saying, “Where’s Penny? We just wanted to say hi!” With seven children under her responsibility, she has earned straight A’s in all her tax and business classes, and actually likes bookkeeping. She also loves to garden, cook, and sew.

Marketing Coordinator: Brita Olson

  • E-mail: brita@malode.com
  • Years with Mother Lode: 1
  • Education: Bachelor of Arts: Hospitality Business – Michigan State University